Instagram Competitive Analysis

The Role of an Instagram Competitive Analysis

In this post, I’m going to talk about the importance of performing an Instagram Competitive Analysis.

Another post addresses examining your competitors’ Facebook pages to get an idea of the design elements, and content types that are common for your industry in order to set up your own Facebook page. Finally, in this post, I talked about studying your competitors’ ads to come up with a “Standard Model” that would allow you to fast-track your own ad creation and begin rapid experimentation with different types of ads.

I’ve often encouraged my readers to examine and study their competition, to learn from their strategies, and adapt their successful tactics for their own business.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no place for originality, creativity, and experimentation. Quite the opposite. The Industry Standards (or “Standard Model”) simply provides a framework for your own Social Media strategies.  What you do within that framework – or even how you experiment outside of that framework – is completely up to you. 

Performing an Instagram Competitive Analysis

Performing a competitor analysis on Instagram follows the same pattern of performing a competitor analysis on Facebook. The basic steps are to:

  1. Find your competitors
  2. Examine their accounts for commonalities that may indicate a “standard”
  3. Study their content to see what types of content are most successful
  4. Replicate their success in a way that is congruent and consistent for your unique brand

In the next few sections, we’ll dig into each of these steps in a little bit more detail.

Find your Competitors

The first step, of course, is to find your competitors. If you are working through this book linearly, then you probably already have a good idea of who your competitors are after researching them for your Marketing Plan and going through a similar exercise for Facebook.

If not, then the there are a few different ways that you can find your competitors. You can start by doing Google searches for the following:

  • Keywords related to your business
  • Your industry
  • Similar businesses within your geographic region

For a competitor analysis you will want to identify at least 3 – 5 of your biggest and best-performing competitors, but you would benefit from identifying as many as 20. The purpose is two-fold:

  1. To get a well-rounded idea of the competition
  2. To understand how different competitors operate their specific niches

Purpose number two is especially difficult to do without studying a larger number of competitors. 

Study Your Competitors’ Accounts

Once you have your list of competitors, search them out on Instagram. As you study their accounts, take note of the following:

  • Their logo style
  • Their account description
  • The URL they list – click through and see if it goes to their home page, a landing page, a product page, or somewhere else
  • The emojis they use 
  • Any call outs or calls to actions they include
  • Any specials or discounts they are promoting
  • The type of content they post
  • The hashtags they use

Study Your Competitors’ Content

As you review the content that your competitors post, you will notice that inevitably some content receives a lot more attention than others. Create a list of the top-performing pieces of content for each of your competitors. Then try to identify what sets those pieces of content apart from others. There are several different factors you’ll want to examine.


Although Instagram started out as primarily a photo-focused medium, it has evolved over time to host a vast array of visual content. Common format types include:

  • Photos
  • Illustration
  • Info graphics
  • Text
  • Quotes
  • Videos
  • Screenshots
  • IGTV
  • Instagram Stories

As you examine your competitors’ highest-performing content, take note of which formats they have in common as this can be an indicator of what the audience best responds to.


In addition to the format, you’ll want to take note of the intent. There are several different intents that brands could have for their content. Some content is meant to educate, instruct, or inform. Other types of content are meant to inspire, while others are meant to entertain. Some content is even intended to shock, disgust, or scare the audience.

Take note of the intent of your competitors’ best performing content. It’s likely that there is a common thread.


Using relevant and far-reaching hashtags is a huge part of your Instagram strategy and is one of the elements of Instagram that sets it apart from other social networks. Most Instagram users follow a range of hashtags that interest them, and by using those hashtags, you can reach a wider audience than you could otherwise.

When you’re examining your competitors’ best performing content, look at the hashtags they’re using. Many of them will be obvious, but look for hashtags that are relevant but creative – hashtags that might get your content in front of an unexpected audience. 

Setting Yourself Apart

As you examine your competitors’ accounts and content strategies, you should be taking extensive notes and looking for the commonalities and standards that contribute to your competitors’ success. 

You should also be taking notes of your competitors’ weaknesses. You do this by brainstorming to identify any gaps in their strategies – content that they’re overlooking, audiences or niches that they’re ignoring, hashtags that they’re neglecting, etc. Also look for lacks in content quality

Aside from content, look for weaknesses in their account, and examine the URL(s) that they are directing users to. Is it pointing to a dedicated landing page, or just their homepage? Does the landing page have consistent branding and messaging, a clear call to action, and an effective incentive?

As you identify your competitors’ weaknesses, you can ensure that you do not share them. By building your own brand in this way, and posting content and using hashtags that your competitors are neglecting, you are able to reach a wider audience with content that is more compelling.

In short, you are able to set yourself apart in a meaningful way. 

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